It may never be pretty but there is still so much to admire about Luton. Rob Edwards’s side looked as if they were heading for a seismic victory courtesy of the substitute Tahith Chong’s late goal until Luis Díaz came off the bench to steal the headlines and a point for Liverpool in injury time.
Having stayed in it thanks to a brilliant performance from the goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski and the erratic nature of Darwin Núñez’s finishing, Luton’s players could be proud of their display against such illustrious opponents. But in the week that his father was kidnapped in Colombia, it had to be Díaz who came to Liverpool’s rescue with their 24th shot of the afternoon and he unveiled a T-shirt with the message “Libertad para Papa” (freedom for Dad) in celebration.
Jürgen Klopp pays tribute to Luis Díaz’s character after Liverpool equaliserRead more
His presence in the matchday squad had been a boost for Jürgen Klopp, who left it open to the Colombia international whether he felt right to take part after a week waiting anxiously for news about his father. A statement from his kidnappers, the National Liberation Army, in the early hours of Sunday morning confirmed that he would be released “as soon as possible”.
Liverpool’s last visit to these parts was an FA Cup tie in 2008 that ended in a 1-1 draw, although Kevin Blackwell’s side were subsequently hammered 5-0 in the replay at Anfield. But despite picking up only their second point here following the draw with Wolves in September, this Luton side has been building in confidence and clearly relished coming so close to causing an upset in front of their passionate fans. “That could be the point that keeps us up,” one optimistic home fan insisted at the final whistle.
As it stands they are exactly where they need to be in 17th spot, if only ahead of Bournemouth on goal difference. But this performance will strengthen the belief that Luton are not here just to make up the numbers.
That much was underlined by the way they started, with an early effort from the former Everton midfielder Ross Barkley forcing Alisson into the first save of the game in a signal of their attacking intent. His opposite number Kaminski then denied Núñez from similar range in a frenetic opening period that set the tone for the whole match.
Tahith Chong had put Luton ahead in the 80th minute at Kenilworth Road. Photograph: Peter Cziborra/Action Images/Reuters
Núñez was inches away from scoring with an audacious effort that clipped the angle of post and crossbar after he raced on to Trent Alexander-Arnold’s long pass. The Manchester City loanee, Issa Kaboré, should have done better when a cross from the lively Chiedozie Ogbene found him unmarked at the back post but the Luton wing‑back blazed well over. It needed another strong save from Kaminski to keep out Núñez again soon afterwards, before Mohamed Salah had his first sight of goal following a free‑kick but could not hit the target to the delight of the home fans.
Luton’s disciplined defensive shape makes them a hard nut to crack and despite enjoying more than 80% of possession, Liverpool had to wait until 10 minutes before the break to summon up their best opportunity of the first half. A lovely touch from Ryan Gravenberch set up Diogo Jota on the edge of the box but once again Kaminski was equal to the shot. Barkley was next to try his luck at the other end but his effort lacked direction and smacked into the roof of the stand behind the goal where the travelling supporters were positioned.
Ibrahima Konaté then inexplicably tried to trick his way past Carlton Morris and almost gifted him the ball, only for Marvelous Nakamba to earn a booking after sliding in on Alexis Mac Allister.
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Liverpool still have not beaten Luton here in the league since 1987, having now failed in their past five attempts. Mac Allister’s frustration boiled over and he was shown a yellow card at the start of the second half for bringing down Andros Townsend – a fifth booking of the season which rules the Argentina midfielder out of Brentford’s visit to Anfield next week. Alisson had to be alert when a powerful run down the left flank from Ogbene saw the Republic of Ireland forward hold off the challenge of Alexander‑Arnold and set up Morris, with the Liverpool goalkeeper just managing to divert his shot wide with his leg.
Klopp had clearly seen enough and made a triple substitution, with Harvey Elliott immediately setting up Cody Gakpo but the Dutch midfielder could not direct his volley on target. Only Núñez will know how he then managed to miss the target from two yards out after being set up by a cushioned header from Salah that left Klopp with his head in his hands.
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The Liverpool manager was shown a yellow card for protesting when a VAR check against the Luton defender Teden Mengi did not result in a penalty. There was worse to come when Kaboré broke free down the right flank and picked out Chong to slide home and send the home supporters into raptures. But their celebrations proved to be short-lived when Díaz headed home from Elliot’s cross to secure a relieved Liverpool a share of the points.